Wow, is it just me, or did the Cardinals just play their best all-around game since last January in Carolina? And one of their best road games since landing in the desert over two decades ago?
The Cardinals went six straight years leaving the great Northwest with a loss before taking it to the reigning Division Champs in 2008, en route to the Big Red’s first division title since many of you were in diapers.
Today, well...this was total domination on both sides of the ball.
Yes, the ‘Hawks OL was decimated by injury, especially at LT. But this is the same group that just won 41-0 a week ago. So it’s not like that was the reason for today's lopsided victory.
Thus, without further ado...
The Cards came into the game with NFL’s No. 1 rated rushing defense and did nothing to change that status. They probably just created separation.
It's true that an early lead made the Seahawks more one dimensional. But that didn’t seem to matter to the Cards defense.
They held Seattle starter Julius Jones to a paltry five yards on five carries. Backup and former Cards RB Edgerrin James could do no better.
The Cardinals struck early, but the Seattle offense is all about Matt Hasselback these days. And when a team stuffs the run like the Big Red did Sunday, it just gives the D a chance to pin their ears back and rush that much harder.
I need to give a rare mention to the Cards most underrated defender, too. Linebacker Clark Haggans has played very well since coming over from Pittsburgh.
He has been especially good this year, be it against the run, or dropping into coverage. Calais Campbell just gets better every week.
When you can hold one of the NFL’s better QB’s to a measly 112 yards through the air and keep him out of the end zone, you’ve had a good game.
The Cardinals did that and more against Hasselback, who was a Pro-Bowler while leading Seattle to four straight division titles.
The pass rush was solid. No, they were downright ornery! Okay, Seattle's banged up line played a part in that. I mean, you cant play a fourth string OT in this league, and have it show no effect.
But Cards defensive coordinator Bill Davis drew up a perfect defensive game plan for such a situation. He had the linebackers filling gaps, and Seattle didn’t know who to block or where the blitz was coming.
It left the Seahawks OL playing on their heels, and the Cards defenders made Hasselback pay time and again.
Telling stat of the day? Seattle didn’t convert on a single third down play in the entire game.
Okay, they still only managed to pile up 60-plus yards running the ball, but they tried to run the ball early with just enough success to make the play action work as it’s intended.
And while they weren’t exactly eating up real estate in the second half, they were able to eat up some clock. That's something they didn’t even bother trying to do last week against Houston.
That surely had something to do with the Texans wiggling their way back into the game.
But not this time. Coach Whisenhunt took a few of Warner’s options away. And it worked as intended, even though you could almost feel Kurt coming out of his skin wanting to pass the ball at times in the third and fourth quarter.
Kurt Warner is so smooth at times, its no wonder that some folks seem unimpressed with his play. He’s not flashy. He won’t scramble or take off for that first down on 3rd and 10. He’s not going to heave the ball 65 yards. But what he will do, when given just a little time, is absolutely shred some of the better defensive backfield’s in football. And he makes it look easy.
WR Larry Fitzgerald had his first 100 yard game of the year, and a touchdown. Anquan Boldin was piling up receptions early before hurting his ankle and missing most of the 2nd half. But Steve Breaston had a terrific game. He made a couple great grabs on 3rd down to keep the chains moving (as did Jerheme Urban), and he made a leaping touchdown pass that basically sealed the deal in the 3rd quarter.
The Cards activated TE Ben Patrick, and used 2 TE sets several times, which was good to see. Patrick caught an important 3rd down pass that allowed the Cards to take more time off the clock late.
Breaston made his presence on the field that much more outstanding when he ripped off two punt returns that gave the Cardinals great field position. They also took a little more life out of the fading Seahawks and their "12th man."
Kicker Neil Rackers dropped a beautiful pooch kick just beyond the blockers and in front of the return guys. Rookie CB Greg Toler (who initially was left inactive, but made active at game time) fell onto the ball immediately after that 15-play TD drive that ate up the game's first 11 minutes.
The Cards capitalized by making it 14-zip on a Tim Hightower run that took the Seahawks fans out of the game for good.
Coach Whiz did as promised, putting in a few fewer pass options and forcing the running game to work.
The results were mixed as far as yards, but it was the right thing to do as the season goes along, and a running game MUST be established!
He called a nice game, and his pounding of “four quarters of football” throughout the week seemed to sink in.
With as much talent as this team has, the result you see at game's end when the offense, defense, and special teams come together, will generally be quite lopsided.
With the Cards heading to the east coast next week for a big NFC matchup against the 5-1 NFC East leading New York Giants, this was an important game to win.
And that the Cards did so in such dominating fashion, in a tough place to play on the road not only makes the plane ride home that much more enjoyable, but should give the guys much needed confidence for the big nationally televised Sunday night affair.
The Cards are now tied with the 49ers atop the NFC West. That they were 1-2 three weeks ago seems like a distant memory. Their food tastes better, the air a little cleaner to breathe, and a deserved happiness and confidence should be felt all around the Tempe facility this week.
A great win against a division foe will do that to a team.